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Comes Back Shooter of Love

Posted October. 22, 2002 23:10,   


Cheong In-gyo (33, 182cm).

This fall conveys a special meaning to him. One day, he was a best long-distance shooter in the pro basketball. Fans got wild every time he made three-point shootings. He cumulated a fund every time he made a three-point shot for the poor, earning him a nickname "Three-point shooter of love." Every time he began or finished a game, fans surrounded him.

Nobody knows when, but Cheong In-gyo began to feel lonely. He has spent most of his time not in the court, but on the bench. He is getting deep into his 30s, which means he is already an over-the-hill for a basketball player. And, people around him treat him such. Is really the end of his career?

His appearance surprised me when I met him 4 days before the beginning of the pro season. He wore a short hair, and looked a little thin. Only his eyes were beaming out rays.

When he joined his current team in June of this year, he weighed 100kg. He wasted almost one year without proper workout.

He racked himself to lose weight. For a meal, he ate one apple. With a determination "without physical fitness, no success as a basketball player," he sweated himself almost to death almost every day. After three months of hard training, his weight came down to 86kg. He has retained his best fitness conditions. Cheong In-gyo showed best performance during the training in Japan. For each game, he recorded 3-4 three-point shots. Gaining his confidence again, he even volunteered to train himself deep into the night, preparing for this year`s season.

Cheong played in Korea Univ. and Industrial Bank, and was a star player who grabbed recorded most scores. In 1997, the first year of the pro basketball, he led his team to the second place.

But, misfortune came to him in 1998. He began his life of a “nomad,” playing here and there. Last year, no team would accept him. He barely settled himself with Korean Tender, but his status was not a regular, but a player in training. His salary, which at peak hovered over $100,000 a year for more than 5 years, climbed down to $14,000. Last year he played only in one game for three minutes.

But why does he stick to the life as a basketball player? He has thought of going over to Guam where all of his family members live. But he thought there was something more left for him. This is the life he has led for more than thirty years.

Choi Hui-am, coach of Mobis reached out for him. For the simple joy of playing basketball, he did not demand any conditions. He got to receive $50,000 a year for 2 years.

"I don’t have a big aim like regaining my fame. I just want to be a player my team needs."

He compares himself to a candle just about to blow out. He is determined to burn all the energy left in him this season. He looked really determined. Maybe because he saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com